As readers of the Bible, we can become so fixated on God’s miracles that we often miss the important teachings related to those miracles?
We all love a good miracle. The Bible is full of such events that show us both the all powerful command God has over everything…and the all powerful love He has for us.
Even today, Jesus is probably best known in the world for the various miracles He performed while He walked on this earth. And what’s not to like? We see Jesus many times giving sight to the blind, giving paralytics the ability to walk, providing healing to the broken hearted…and yes…raising people from the dead.
But I maintain…and the Bible seems to support…that Jesus was a reluctant miracle worker. Not reluctant in the sense that He did not enjoy it or did not really want to do it…but that He seemed to understand that the miracles could actually get in the way of His actual mission.
Remember, Jesus Himself said that His goal, according to was: “the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost.” Jesus did not come to earth to be the “miracle worker”…because He knew that miracles alone would not necessarily lead people to salvation. In fact, when Jesus healed 10 lepers of their horrifying disease, only one came back to thank Him with a desire to join Him.
The clearest indication that Jesus saw miracles not as an end but a means to an end is seen in Mark chapter 1. After an entire day of performing healing miracles…and after a well deserved night’s sleep…Jesus awoke the following day with His Disciples saying: “Everyone is looking for You” (b). The implication is clear…they were looking for Him to do more miracles.
Jesus acknowledges this and His focus on the real mission by answering: “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth” (). The purpose was to preach the Gospel…not do miracles. Miracles were a way to lead people to the Gospel…but as I said…too many times we miss important truths because we are dazzled by the miracles.
Such is the case with Lazarus. We all are familiar with this story. Lazarus…a dear friend of Jesus’…dies. Jesus, reaches the tomb and is deeply moved by the sorrow He sees. In fact, …the shortest verse in the Bible…reveals the depth of His sorrow with two words: Jesus wept. We know the rest of the story. Jesus speaks the now-famous words: Lazarus, come forth…and He actually raises Lazarus from the dead. The people are amazed…we are amazed…as we should be.
But if you were to ask most believers to tell you what Jesus said in John chapter 11…you might get several answers. “Lazarus come forth” is a good one. “I am the resurrection and the life” is also one people most remember. But what about: “Loose him and let him go.” Do you even remember Jesus saying that?
Jesus gave those instructions to the people standing around Lazarus after he emerged from his former tomb. You may say: Well…of course he would say that. After all Lazarus had been buried the traditional way…all wrapped from head to toe in gravecloths. Jesus was just stating the obvious. Until…
We think about it a bit more. Jesus had just raised someone from the dead. Someone who had been dead for 4 days. He got all organs, tissues, and muscles working again immediately. If He could do that, doesn’t it seem likely that He could have caused the gravecloths to come off themselves…or disappeared…or something. After all, what are a few strips of cloth compared to reanimating a human brain?
This is where we miss the forest for the trees in these miracle stories. Jesus told those around Lazarus to remove the gravecloths because Lazarus couldn’t do it himself. He was still bound by his grave clothes…if you will. This is exactly the point Jesus is making.
When we come to faith in Christ…redeemed…saved…whatever term you prefer, we come from death to life. Like Lazarus, we are still bound by our old grave clothes. Old ideas, philosophies, worldviews that kept us bound in the first place. We cannot remove them ourselves.
Like Lazarus, we need fellow Believers to help us remove those old ideas and to adjust to a new, Biblical way of looking at things. We are in bondage while apart from Christ…we are freed when we come to Him. We need other Believers to help us with that. What we don’t see in this passage…because we don’t need it…is fellow Believers placing more bindings on us. The command was to set Lazarus free…not bind him. Though unfortunately there are plenty of folks who love to use their legalism to do just that. But remember…legalism binds people…it does not set them free.
And Jesus…well…He wants us free. How cool is that?
On Behalf of myself, Robert Houghton, and all of us here at the Growth Project…keep reading God’s Word.
Dr. Purvis started Growth Project after spending 20 years on active duty as a Chaplain in the United States Navy. After many moves and multiple deployments, he settled in St. Cloud, Florida to do God’s will. A glutton for educational punishment Danny has a BA in English from Carson-Newman College, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; a ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a PhD in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. He has been married to his wife Kimberly (whom he met when they were 6 years old) for nearly 30 years and they have four wonderful children.